Twins Daily 2019 Top Prospects: 11-15
15. Yunior Severino, 2B
Age: 19 (DOB: 10/3/99)
2018 Stats (Rookie): 218 PA, .263/.321/.424, 8 HR, 28 RBI
2018 Ranking: 18
It feels like a lifetime ago that the Atlanta Braves were handed severe sanctions for circumventing MLB's international signing rules, with GM John Coppolella banned for life and nine of the organization's signings released back into free agency. (Especially since Atlanta's internal rebuild coalesced so beautifully anyway in 2018.) But it was just last offseason that the Twins were able to capitalize and scoop up Severino, who enjoyed a solid rookie-level debut with his new franchise.
In 49 games at Elizabethton, Severino posted a .745 OPS that was nearly identical to the Appalachian League average (.746). He did so as an 18-year-old switch-hitting middle infielder, in a setting where the average player was two years older. His eight home runs tied for the league lead among second basemen.
Already closing in on 200 pounds as a teenager, Severino doesn't have much speed to speak of (he hasn't stolen a base in 107 games as a pro) and will probably end up at a corner spot defensively, so his bat will probably have to carry him. But there's plenty of potential in that department.
"He’s like Alex Kirilloff—his swing stands out from the others,” VP for player personnel Mike Radcliff told Baseball America when the Twins signed Severino. Not a bad comp.
14. Ben Rortvedt, C
Age: 21 (DOB: 9/25/97)
2018 Stats (A-/A+): 353 PA, .262/.331/.379, 5 HR, 43 RBI
2018 Ranking: 16
Since being drafted by the Twins as a second-rounder in 2016, Rortvedt's offensive game has lagged behind his relatively advanced defense. In that scope, his 2018 season has to be viewed as a success; between two levels of A-ball, the lefty-swinging Wisconsin native posted a .710 OPS, improving by more than 100 points on 2017's underwhelming mark (.599) at Cedar Rapids.
He certainly wasn't dominant at the plate following his midseason promotion to Fort Myers, but his approach was exemplary, with a 0.72 BB/K ratio that ranked second-best among Florida State League catchers with 100+ PA. At this point we're just waiting for a bit more power to emerge, which seems feasible as he keeps growing and adding strength. He totaled four home runs with the Miracle after hitting one in Cedar Rapids, the last a grand slam in late-August as part of a six-RBI outburst.
As a receiver, Rortvedt draws high marks. His excellent arm continues to control opposing run games, as he threw out 37% of base stealers last year following 2017's 36%. He figures to compete for a spot at Double-A this spring, but will have to fend off the next guy on this list.
13. Ryan Jeffers, C
Age: 21 (DOB: 6/3/97)
2018 Stats (Rookie/A-): 284 PA, .344/.444/.502, 7 HR, 33 RBI
2018 Ranking: N/A
I noted in recapping last year's list that while the system was generally balanced, "the notable area of concern is catcher." Rortvedt and Mitch Garver were the position's only representatives in the Top 20, and Garver would soon lose his prospect eligibility. So Jeffers immediately took on a great deal of importance when the Twins drafted him out UNC Wilmington in the second round, 59th overall, last June. He was the fourth catcher to come off the board, and the second collegiate backstop.
Answering the call, Jeffers arrived with a thunderous debut in pro ball. Although you'd generally expect a successful college hitter (Jeffers put up a 1.095 OPS with 16 homers in his final season at Wilmington) to catch on quickly in the low minors, Jeffers surpassed all expectations offensively, slashing a ridiculous .422/.543/.578 in 29 games at Elizabethton before moving up to Low-A, where he finished at .288/.361/.446 in 36 contests.
His bat looks legit. The key question is whether he'll stick at catcher. He's a big guy (6'4", 228) with a good arm (threw out five of 12 runners last year) but there are many raw aspects of his game behind the plate. For his part, he has no intentions of moving: "“The Twins haven’t even asked me to play anything else,” he told the Pioneer Press. “For me, that’s a good sign. They trust me behind the plate and want me to stick there. I want to stick back behind the plate. I don’t really want to play any other position.”
Jeffers and Rortvedt are two sides of the same coin, inspiring plenty of confidence in one dimension with less polish in the other. They're at roughly the same stage of development. It's tough to say at this point which one's more likely to emerge, but the Twins are much better off for having both of them in the system.
12. Nick Gordon, SS
Age: 23 (DOB: 10/24/95)
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 591 PA, 248/.298/.355, 7 HR, 49 RBI
2018 Ranking: 3
In the plot line of Gordon's career, you can pinpoint the moment where his prospect stock absolutely peaked, and then embarked upon an abrupt nosedive. It was on May 22nd, 2018, when he was promoted to Triple-A and suddenly everything began to fall apart. Gordon had torn it up in Chattanooga over the first two months, slashing .333/.381/.525 to back up his preseason #3 ranking on Twins Daily's prospect list, but at Rochester his limitations took center-stage.
Gordon's offensive potential was always based more on projection than production. That he was able to remain a regular fixture in national prospect rankings despite never cracking a .750 OPS through four years speaks to the prestige of his pedigree. In Triple-A, the lack of power and patience caused him to tank. He endured multiple long hitless stretches. In his final 40 games he batted .166 with three extra-base hits in 170 plate appearances. Even with the context that a 22-year-old Gordon was young for the International League, it was tough to find silver linings.
Meanwhile, the questions about his viability at shortstop gained more weight, as Gordon ceded a higher percentage of playing time than ever before – nearly one out of every three starts – to second base. An eventual move across the bag was generally assumed, given his lack of standout arm strength, but if Gordon can't play short in the majors his need to add offense is magnified.
To that end, Gordon is said to be focused on gaining weight (and strength) this offseason. The Star Tribune reports that he's spent significant time at the team's facility in Fort Myers. If it all comes together at the plate, he'll have no trouble providing value at either middle-infield spot. Added to the 40-man roster in November, his options clock will start ticking this season.
11. Stephen Gonsalves, LHP
Age: 24 (DOB: 7/8/94)
2018 Stats (AA/AAA): 120.2 IP, 2.76 ERA, 120/65 K/BB, 1.17 WHIP
2018 Ranking: 4
In the plot line of Gonsalves' career, you can pinpoint the moment where his prospect stock absolutely peaked, and then embarked upon an abrupt nosedive. It was August 20th, 2018, when he arrived in the majors following an unconscious stretch at Triple-A and delivered the first in a series of clunkers.
Over his first four MLB starts, every flaw in the left-hander's game was exploited. Batters teed off on his low-velo arsenal, batting .414 and pushing across 16 earned runs in 12 1/3 innings. He constantly struggled to find the zone, with 13 walks and a 57% strike rate. He threw 287 pitches and induced 17 swings and misses (6%).
To his credit, Gonsalves turned things around and finished on a strong note, allowing two earned runs and four hits over 12 1/3 innings in his last three appearances, all following an "opener." During this stretch his strengths were more visible – namely a long-standing ability to limit hard contact – but he still was wild and unable to miss bats, reminding us of the tightrope he walks with limited stuff.
Despite his impeccable numbers throughout the minors, which were as good as ever as he climbed past the top rung, it was always difficult for analysts to envision Gonsalves as an overpowering major-league starter. In August and September, we saw why.
Gordon and Gonsalves in 2018 were both prime examples of weaknesses being exposed at the highest levels. But they're also both under 25, with ample development time ahead of them before options run out. It's important to keep in mind the positive attributes that earned each a spot in the top five a year ago.
At least each one now has a precise idea of what needs improvement. In the words of Henry Ford: "Failure is simply the opportunity to begin again, this time more intelligently."
Twins Daily 2019 Top 20 Prospects
20. Jose Miranda, 2B/3B
19. Jorge Alcala, RHP
18. LaMonte Wade, OF
17. Zack Littell, RHP
16. Gilberto Celestino, OF
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